I think we’ve been on the river Trent on more occasions than we’ve been on any other river. And when you add in the number of times we’ve crossed it on an aqueduct (or motorway bridge to and from Felucca), well, let’s just say we have come to know it in all its forms. Bubbling brook, barely worthy of the designation ‘river’. Wide, lumbering stretches that play host to novice rowing crews and even more unschooled and frankly terrified Felucca handlers. And tidal waters, that have carried us into the north proper, from Torksey to Keadby via the Chesterfield Canal.
The Trent rises in Staffordshire, then heads roughly east across the Midlands through the Potteries of Stoke etc, running roughly alongside the Trent and Mersey Canal. Tom tells me that the waters at Stoke were once so full of all sorts of unspeakable muck from the factories that it was possible to set the river on fire. Nowadays it looks good enough to swim in. At Sawley it starts to head north, passing through Nottingham. And then at Cromwell Lock it gets tidal. So tidal that at certain tides it even spawns a bore, called the Aegir, a bit like the Severn bore but – I think – marginally less terrifying. Although we left it at Keadby Lock, it continues, gaining proper commercial traffic en route, towards the Humber – apparently one of the scariest waters in the world.
It’s a beast of a river. It flows fast – to my untrained eye faster than the tidal Thames did. And it’s both wider and far, far more bendy than the bit of the Severn we’ve navigated. You have to watch yourself to make sure the boat stays wide going round corners; try to cut them and you could end up running aground. Looking at its meanders brings back memories of GCSE Geography field trips. Though I don’t fancy standing in the middle of this river and trying to get a handle on its vital statistics it with a net, a metre long ruler and some sticks.
Anyway, we came, we saw, we conquered. More or less.
Tidal adventure number one, out at Torksey Lock and up-country-but-down-stream to West Stockwith and the Chesterfield Canal, happened a couple of weeks ago in company with our friends from the Wash, NBs Acacia and Venice. It was a fairly uneventful run as we’d done all our preparations – VHF radio on the correct channels check, lifejackets on check, anchor in place check, charts what we’d ordered off tinternet thoroughly perused beforehand check, plenty of biscuits to snack on naturellement. So when it came to our trip from West Stockwith down to Keadby and the South Yorkshire Navigations, we were feeling pretty, pretty good.
Sadly, much as the Spanish football team appears to be discovering at the moment, past glories are no predictor of future success. We got back to the boat after a couple of days away, ready to lock out at Tuesday lunchtime, only to find that the engine wouldn’t start. Oh dear. We dug out our engine book and ran through the diagnostic checks. It was clearly a kaput starter motor. No other diagnosis possible. Oh horror. Then Steve from RCR turned up, whistling a clearly magical tune under his breath as he twiddled the battery masters and brought the engine to life in ten seconds flat. Quel chagrin. Poor old Steve even stuck around to tighten our fan belt and fix the coolant leak in order to make his trip just about worthwhile. By this point we’d missed the tide for the day. And when I went to see if we could lock out on Wednesday instead, I was told that there was major dredging work going on in Keadby then, so we would probably be stuck on the Chesterfield for another day. And did I mention we were nearly out of diesel but West Stockwith had run out?
Still, in the way of all things, the evening and the morning brought the second day. And lo, the good lockkeeper said unto us that the dredging work was done, and the diesel man had cometh. And we saw that the weather was good. And the engine started. And we set forth. And we arrived at Keadby and I executed a perfect manoeuvre, turning into the ebbing tide and managing not to smack the boat into the lock wall. Hallelujah!
To top off all this excitement, we moored up next to Spider T, a beautiful ship built in 1926 which is getting ready to head up to Hull as part of the WW1 commemorations. We managed to invite ourselves on board (AMAZING) and also helped ‘em move the boat across the cut (AMAZING x 2).
I think this is the part of the post where I am supposed to reflect intelligently on the Trent and tidal waters and stuff. But I’ve run out of steam a bit so let’s leave it at: it’s been a blast but I’m rather pleased to be back on normal canals now thank you very much.